Most Red-Light Camera Laws in Mo. Are Invalid, Court Rules

By Brett Snider, Esq. on November 07, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Missouri appellate court has ruled that most red-light camera laws in the state are invalid. As a result, Kansas City and other municipalities are suspending their red-light camera ticketing programs.

According to The Kansas City Star, the Missouri Court of Appeal's Eastern District reversed its 2011 ruling that allowed red-light cameras in the state. The new ruling, issued Tuesday, cites a fundamental contradiction between many local red-light camera ordinances and Missouri state law.

What was the court's reasoning in striking down red-light camera laws?

State v. Local Laws

The same Missouri appellate court had ruled in 2011 that the use of red-light cameras in the Missouri city of Creve Couer was legal, but overturned that decision on Tuesday.

In deciding that Ellisville, Missouri's red-light camera laws were invalid in Edwards v. City of Ellisville, the appellate court set a precedent for similar red-light camera enforcement throughout the state.

The court in Edwards based its ruling on a conflict between Missouri state law, which regulates drivers, and the Ellisville city ordinance which regulated vehicle owners.

Since the city ordinance allowed tickets to be generated by red-light camera tickets and sent to vehicle owners, regardless of the driver, it was in conflict with state regulations, the court explained.

And since local laws that conflict with state laws are void -- as explicitly stated in Missouri law -- the city's red-light camera law could not stand, the court held.

Putting the Brakes on Red-Light Camera Laws

Although the court's reasoning in striking down Ellisville's red-light camera ordinance is based on a conflict with state law, other cities are already reconsidering their red-light programs.

According to St. Louis' KMOX-TV, the city of Creve Couer -- the one that initially won to keep its red-light cameras in 2011 -- is now "reviewing its alternative courses of action" in light of the new opinion.

Looking to larger cities, Kansas City acted Wednesday to suspend enforcement of its red-light camera system in the wake of the Edwards ruling. These Missouri cities join others nationwide that have ditched the controversial camera programs in light of costs and legal issues.

It's not yet clear if Ellisville's lawyers will appeal the red-light camera decision. The issue may ultimately have to be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court, one lawyer told the Star.

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